Greetings D5 for Black Lives Community,

Discomfort is not a public safety risk

The argument against allowing unhoused people to camp in visible places is often phrased in terms of “public safety.” The data does not support that public camping makes the community less safe.

In this context, ‘public safety’ is a misnomer for discomfort. In this country, white people expect to be comfortable at all times. Other communities (black, brown, unhoused) suffer material consequences (red lining, race based policing, camping bans) in order to ensure white people are never uncomfortable in their daily lives. But feeling uncomfortable is not a public safety risk. Let’s be mindful of the difference between feeling uncomfortable and actual threats to our physical safety.

Small Wins and Ongoing Organizing

Council Member Kitchen initially proposed a resolution (Item #49) that would “disallow” camping in certain locations after the current occupants of those areas are provided housing. We commend the housing part of her proposal, but the plan to “disallow” camping exposes people living without permanent shelter to further trauma, criminalization, and economic distress.

As a result of your action in signing last week’s petition, along with actions by allied organizations throughout the City, Council Member Kitchen revised her resolution to require staff to recommend strategies for “disallowing camping” that include options other than policing or citations. While we regret that policing and citations are still on the table, police response is now not the only strategy that must be presented to the Council. That is a modest win, but it is movement in a positive direction because Council Member Kitchen acknowledged the problem that policing poses to the safety and community of our unsheltered neighbors.

There is more work to be done. By March 4th, staff will send recommendations to the Council that include strategies to “disallow camping” in purportedly unsafe locations. Council Member Kitchen has also agreed to set up a meeting with Dianna Grey, the City’s Homeless Strategy Officer, so D5BL and our allies can help shape the policy coming from staff.   We need to keep the pressure up, so please continue to sign and circulate the petition.

Finally, related but totally separate from the above, the camping ban could be reinstated in full by ballot initiative on May 1, 2021. This would be catastrophic for our unhoused neighbors. Please make a plan to vote against reinstating a camping ban.

Thank you,

D5 for Black Lives